By: HiFiAudio.Guru
December 11th, 2023

Headphone.Guru’s 2023 Product of the Year & Writer’s Choice Awards!

Once again, as we do every year at this time, the staff at Headphone.Guru have chosen those products we tested this year that impressed us the most and awarded them product of the year in their category. As always you will see many familiar names on this list from manufacturers who seem to year after year outdo themselves and produce gems that just blow us away. On the other hand, you will also see a few new faces, who have risen above the crowd to show that there is still a place for innovation and unique thinking.

– Gary Alan Barker

2023 DAC/Amplifier of the Year

dCS Bartók APEX

Listening over three months to the dCS Bartók APEX made me realize how far digital has come over the years since when it came out in 1984. dCS located in Cambridge has been to work over the years creating the best digital products on this planet. Sound this good, on the Bartók APEX, is world-class. Priced at $22,950 this is the very best digital reproduction I have experienced.

-Frank Iacone

Price: $22,950

Manufacturer’s Website: dcsaudio.com

2023 Electrostatic Headphone of the Year

Dan Clark Audio CORINA

The CORINA delivers everything for me in transparency and never falters in any area, and it is the best I have heard this year. Dan Clark’s CORINA is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting the very best in transparency and musicality. DCA’s new flagship is a must-listen; many, including me, will want to use it as their end-game system. The CORINA is my studio’s most detailed and musical transducer and is destined for greatness. Big thumbs up for the near-perfect transducer that recreates your old tunes and makes them new again. Beautiful to look at and comfortable for marathon sessions, the CORINA makes all my music come to life and is the work of artisans committed to perfection. Outstanding and magical, it is DCA’s best work to date!!!!

-Frank Iacone

Price: $4,499.99

Manufacturer’s Website: https://danclarkaudio.com/

2023 Closed Planar Headphone of the Year

Dan Clark Audio E3

The Dan Clark Audio E3 Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphone truly blew me away and has replaced my Dan Clark Audio ETHER C Flow 1.1 Headphones as my reference headphone for tonal balance, accuracy, and sub-bass response. While it requires a little more power to drive, it exceeds its predecessor in speed, musicality, and dynamic range, it is simply one of my all-time favorite headphones and one of the best values out there.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $1,999.99

Manufacturer’s Website: https://danclarkaudio.com

2023 Open Planar Headphone of the Year

Audeze MM-500

I was absolutely enthralled by the new MM-500 headphones by Audeze. The tuning by the world-renowned audio engineer Manny Marroquin added a sense of neutrality and clarity that was very much welcomed by my ears. If you’re looking for a fantastic pair of mixing headphones, look no further than these beauties. They are quite a step up from many other mixing headphones that I’ve heard and reviewed through the years. As well, if you’re an audiophile looking for a top-flight pair of headphones that will lay your recordings bare and allow you to experience them as the original artists always intended, these headphones will fit that bill to perfection. I can’t stress just how impressed I was with these headphones regardless of your personal use as they ticked off every box on the list of what I look for in a great pair of headphones! While the price point isn’t meant for newcomers, these headphones easily compete with other flagship headphones costing 2-3 times as much. You owe it to yourself (and your ears) to give these headphones an audition as you won’t be disappointed!

-Peter Pialis

Price:$1,699 USD

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.audeze.com/

2023 Dynamic Headphone of the Year

Meze Audio 109 PRO

The Meze Audio 109 PRO Open Back Dynamic Headphone sets the bar for a mid-priced dynamic headphone. It produces what I think of as the popular Mid-Fi sound, warm and pleasant with a large enveloping soundstage that works well with most sources and any genre of music.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $799

Manufacturer’s Website: mezeaudio.com

2023 True Wireless In-Ear Monitor of the Year

Noble FoKus Prestige

The Noble FoKus Prestige True Wireless In-Ear Monitor not only takes TWS IEMs to a new level, it is a class-leading IEM in its price bracket that I would happily choose over any of the wired competition. Which really means to equal its performance you would need to spend twice as much, given you would need to spend an equal amount on a DAC/Amplifier. First class all the way.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $599

Manufacturer’s Website: https://nobleaudio.com

2023 Electrostatic Headphone System of the Year

Warwick Acoustics BRAVURA Electrostatic Headphone System

It may seem odd to have two electrostatic headphones receive a Product of the Year Award but the Warwick Acoustics BRAVURA Electrostatic Headphone System is unique in that it is a completely self-contained system. In fact, the DAC/Amplifier is designed specifically to not only drive Warwick Acoustics’ unusual Electrostatic drivers which require a much higher bias current, but also employs DSP to make the presentation more sonically accurate. Simply put, with the speed and accuracy of an Electrostatic coupled with the dynamic range and bass usually associated with dynamic headphones, I can number the Warwick Acoustics BRAVURA Electrostatic Headphone System among my top five or six headphone experiences.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: Silver: $5,995; Black: $6,795; Headphone Only: $1,995 (S); $2,395 (B)

Manufacturer’s Website: https://warwickacoustics.com

2023 Budget DAC/Amplifier of the Year


The Ying to the HIFIMAN AUDIVINA’s Yang, the HIFIMAN EF600 R2R DAC & Headphone Amp with dual HIFIMAN HYMALAYA Pro R2R DAC chips is in a word, spectacular. Musical and powerful, it is a perfect match for the entire HIFIMAN line of headphones, as well as any other headphone you wish to throw at it, a true bargain in under $1,000 DAC/Amplifiers.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $799

Manufacturer’s Website: https://hifiman.com/products/detail/332

2023 Tube Amplifier of the Year

Cayin HA-3A

As any regular reader knows, I live for tube amps, and the Cayin HA-3A Tube Headphone Amplifier is one of the more fantastic examples to cross my desk, especially for its modest price. Matched with a good source, the HA-3A will perform magic on your favorite headphone.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $1,599

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.moon-audio.com

2023 Music Streamer of the Year


TEAC’s UD-701N impressed me with its transparency, speed, and detail retrieval. Impressive with its black background and its ability to add pieces made this an easy recommendation. The ability to listen at this level and a product that competes with much more expensive gear make this a bargain. If you want musicality and finesse with a dead silent background that is future-proof you should audition the TEAC UD-701N. Big thumbs up to what will be my new endgame reference system. Purchasing the unit gives it my highest recommendation.

-Frank Iacone

Price: $4,299.99

Manufacturer’s Website: https://teac-usa.com

2023 In-Ear Monitor of the Year

Westone Audio MACH Series

Westone Audio challenged us this year to review their entire new line of Universal In-Ear Monitors, and as part of this, a selection was sent to each of our reviewers, and universally we agreed that each particular IEM was exceptional in its class, and as such, we have decided to award Product of the Year to the entire line rather than any particular model.

– Gary Alan Barker

Westone Audio brings an enticing set of IEMs to the market with their MACH lineups tuned after their ES CIEM siblings. The MACH UIEMs are more approachable and offer the famous Westone Audio sound signature that goes back decades and started off the boom we have today. I love how the lineup utilizes the same shell with the T2 connection standard allowing for the most seamless tip insertion I’ve used in ages. The MACH IEMs disappear into your ears like you were wearing customs. 

Overall, Westone Audio has brought forth a competitive line of IEMs with technical performance to match their equally ambitious (MACH) name. They shatter the speed at which sound can go from sounding lifeless on your old set of earphones, to full of life when you equip the latest offerings from Westone Audio. 

-Bowei Zhao

After 2 months of critical listening and pure enjoyment, my main conclusion is a question. Why did it take me nearly 20 years to get my hands on a set of Westone Audio IEMs?  They more than live up to their legendary name bringing a transparent yet engaging presentation to the listener. Music delivered precisely and accurately as befits a monitoring tool, yet with emotional impact. The low end is slightly boosted and both phenomenal and subterranean on the MACH 20 and 70. The 60 had a more neutral bass but with the same great speed and texture. All 3 IEMs shine in the mid-range. Vocals and instruments are precise and layered in presentation. The highs are detailed yet never sibilant nor distracting. This musicality along with the supreme level of all-day comfort makes them all highly recommended with a high value at their price point with the MACH 20 being a legitimate bargain at $399.99.

-Kevin Venable


MACH 10: $299.99

MACH 20 $399.99

MACH 30 $499.99

MACH 40 $599.99

MACH 50 $799.99

MACH 60 – $1099.99

MACH 70 – $1399.99

MACH 80 $1,599.99

Manufacturer’s Website: westoneaudio.com

2023 Portable DAC/Amplifier of the Year

Chord Mojo2

As a DAC the Chord Mojo2 is quite an accomplishment, after all, it does equate to the summit of all of Chord’s accomplishments, and it will crush almost any chip-based DAC, which pretty much means anything in its price range.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $775

Manufacturer’s Website:

To Purchase: https://www.moon-audio.com/chord-mojo-dac-headphone-amp.html

Information: https://chordelectronics.co.uk

2023 Headphone Cable of the Year

Danacable Lazuli Rhapsody

Anyone who doubts how much difference a headphone cable can make need only experience Danacable’s headphone cable A/B test they run at many HiFi shows. While the Danacable Lazuli Rhapsody does remarkable things for higher-end headphones like the HIFIMAN SUSVARA, what it did for my humble HIFIMAN DEVA Pro was simply astonishing.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $2,299 – $2,799

Manufacturer’s Website: https://danacables.com

2023 Accessory of the Year

Swiss Digital FUSE BOX

It is astonishing how much is lost through a simple fuse, every electronic audio device from DACs to Amplifiers is hamstrung by this basic requirement of product safety. The Swiss Digital FUSE BOX, a must be heard to be believed device, fixes all that, without compromising safety, what more can you ask from a power product?

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $395 ($494 with “Piggy Tail” power cord)

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.verafiaudiollc.com

2023 Reference Loudspeaker of the Year

Endow Audio Bravura 7.2

Price No Object Loudspeaker was too cumbersome when I created this category so I went with Reference Loudspeaker, but read that as Price No Object despite the Endow Audio Bravura 7.2 Microtower Point Array Speakers’ relatively modest price. If you are looking to unleash a true live performance, front-row arena experience, I cannot recommend the speakers enough. The walls of your room will disappear.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $6,900/pr

Manufacturer’s Website: https://endowaudio.com

2023 Budget Loudspeaker of the Year

XSA-Labs Vanguard Loudspeaker

I never thought I would be recommending two loudspeakers for a Product of the Year Award in the same year, but here we are, so don’t let the term budget convince you that the XSA-Labs Vanguard Loudspeaker is anything but a reference quality speaker, it literally just refers to the price. Based on the famous LS3/5a of bygone years and bringing modern materials and manufacturing techniques to the equation the XSA-Labs Vanguard Loudspeaker offers jaw-dropping performance and is my current reference speaker.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $995

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.xsa-labs.com

Frank Iacone:

Editor’s Choice Award for 2023 – Audeze CRBN

Just when you thought Audeze had reached the pinnacle of their art they brought their highly praised sound signature to the world of electrostatic headphones. Light and comfortable, with good bass and dynamics, the Audeze CRBN is an electrostatic headphone you can listen to all day. (Review Pending)

– Frank Iacone

Price: $4,500

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.audeze.com

Gary Alan Barker:

Editor’s Choice Award for 2023 – Woo Audio WA7e

When I first saw the Woo Audio WA7e DAC/Tube Electrostatic Headphone Amplifier at AXPONA 2023 I knew I had to review it, and boy I wasn’t disappointed. I have no trouble saying that my time with the WA7e was one of my most pleasurable experiences this year, paired up with a set of STAX SR-L300 Limited Electrostatic Earspeakers I was reminded of why I have been an Electrostatic fan since the ’70s.

– Gary Alan Barker

Price: $1,399

Manufacturer’s Website: https://wooaudio.com

Kevin Venable:

Writer’s Choice Award for 2023 – Earmen CH-AMP

The Earmen system provided countless hours of enjoyment along with solace in a very hectic time of my life. Seeming headphone agnostic, it just made music from whatever file it was fed through whichever headphone struck my fancy.

-Kevin Venable

Price: $1,480

Manufacturer’s Website: www.earmen.com

Bowei Zhao:

Writer’s Choice Award for 2023 – Westone Audio Mach 40

Westone Audio’s Mach 40 represented the most ‘fun’ sounding IEM in its range while packing the same general fit and features as its siblings. I thoroughly enjoyed the smooth laid-back mid-range and the punch in the lows with EDM and pop genres making it the best for daily driving. With four BA drivers and expert tuning from their team, the MACH 40 was a joy to use during my time with them. The MACH UIEM’s delight with a combination of series that are ‘sounded’ after their CIEM counterparts and offer a much more approachable price range and entry into Westone’s extensive lineup. 

-Bowei Zhao

Price: $599.99

Manufacturer’s Website: westoneaudio.com

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